"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." 2 Corinthians 5:17-19
After the fall, Adam and Eve’s relationship with Yahweh was not the only thing that broke. Their mindset was shattered to smithereens. The perspective on themselves went from confident innocence to crippling shame. The peace and bliss of the garden - the birthplace of God’s friendship with man - was replaced with turmoil and fear at the acceptance of a liar’s words. An entire world of deceit, envy, murder, strife, shame, lust, control, suffering and pain was conceived through a few crafty questions and cunning lies. The trustworthiness of the greatest Friend to ever exist was questioned, doubted, and betrayed.
I despise the thought of what we friends and children of God do to His heart sometimes. He wrote this grand story [aka LIFE/history/eternity past to eternity future] to show us His great affection and majesty. To give us a chance to be welcomed into His kingdom for our good and His sheer delight, to the praise of His glorious grace. And time and time again after this first betrayal in the garden, we have wounded the most perfectly good and kind heart with our constant doubts rooted in pride and fear. I am glad He is not only the most affectionate and tender heart I’ll ever know intimately, but He is also the strongest, most relentless, most jovial, intensely sure, steady, confident, and unshaken Being I’ll ever know. It feels unspeakably ridiculous to even state this, but He surely does not need our pity. He is the Living God. The most powerful force in existence. The very Being whose omniscience beheld the pages of this Story before they even played out. He always knows what tomorrow holds. Thankfully though, He knows we are dust and He is compassionate. And this is quite a nice segue into what has been making my heart burn for quite some time...
When the sons of men inherited the broken relationship status with God from Adam and Eve, what came in that packaged deal was a mutilated perspective. Not only is working now a curse, but I believe working became a curse partly because their viewpoint and mindset was cursed. The way we view EVERYTHING through the lens of the old self is cursed. Alive within our old man is every manner of deceit, misconstrued affection, lust, greed, fear, pride, anger, envy, and self gratification. We don’t desire God or ache for Him like one in love. We cannot. We are disillusioned in our narrow-minded craving and commitments to inferior things. We live inside chaos and distraction - rarely coming up for air as the days pass us like clouds racing swiftly across the vast sky.
We are quick to forget that we have no right to any of the breaths we take. We did not even choose to come into existence! Our existence was chosen by Another. This God I speak of is not up there in the sky looking disappointingly at his creatures exclaiming “Oh what have you done! I had no idea this would happen!” No no, He has been God for a really really really long time and He is not surprised by us. Not only is he NOT surprised by us, but He decided to come acquaint Himself with our sufferings and temptations in effort to bring us to HIM because He knew we needed Him. He demonstrated the greatest act of love the world will ever know.
I hear often the descriptions we give ourselves as ‘Christians.’ “We are all just beggars looking for bread.” “God, we are sorry for being such pitiful, sinful children.” We lift an octave in our voices to sing the phrase: “prone to wander, Lord I feel it!” like some refrain that holds freedom and power. I have said and done all of these things, but I’ve started to ask myself why?
What if I believed I have an unending flow of bread from the greatest Bread Maker ever. Not only for myself, but plenty to hand around to those who are hungry like I used to be? What if I believed He always had bread to give me if I will go to Him trustingly? (John 14:4). What if I believed I make God proud? (Hebrews 11:16). What if I believed I made Him smile with sheer delight because I am His kid, His beloved, and He can’t stop thinking about me? (Psalm 139:17-18 + John 17:22-23). What if I believed I was prone to love Him now that His Spirit is alive in me? (Galatians 4:6-7). What if I believed His Spirit in me was powerful enough to help me believe these things? (Luke 18:27)
Walking in the latter mindset is freedom. The weight of crippling shame is thrown off and exchanged for confident innocence again. It is nothing short of a miracle. I believe this is the essence and process of sanctification.
“…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:4-6 (Plz stop here and go read all of Ephesians 1 just for fun).
With the renewed mindset that we are children instead of beggars, gloriously adopted instead of orphaned, will we not work with greater excellence, love with greater depth, risk with jovial boldness, and live life with greater fullness? Will we not be the most humble, confident human beings walking around on this floating mystery called Earth? We know we are undeserving of this radical and endless love, peace, goodness, joy and grace, but once we receive it (namely, HIM)… why not enjoy Him to the full and carry His Spirit with sureness? There is a world of difference in the shame of a weary peasant and the confidence of a righteous prince.
As Christians, we have the most powerful force in existence living within our flesh and bones. He chose us to be His hands and feet in this time period for some reason, so we must stop using our faith as a crutch to do nothing; to sit in idleness and pity. We have the ability to transcend our contexts through the active work of the Spirit in us revealing the truth of God to our hearts. His truth is revealed as His Word abides within us.
"Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." John 17:17
I am convinced the more we delight and feast upon the Words of God, (and I mean really feast on them - i.e. wake up thinking about his words. Go to sleep thinking and talking to Him about His words and promises. Meditate on Him in the afternoons, etc etc…) the more we will realize the power within us, find ourselves possessing greater awareness of our ability to transcend beyond the thoughts of our culture, the thoughts of people, and even our own thoughts rooted in our old nature. We don’t meditate to empty our minds. Our minds must be filled to feed our hearts with the only truth in this entire world - the word of God. Otherwise, we too will be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). I don’t want to spend my days thinking about things that won’t matter in 100 years, or 50 years, or 1 year, or 1 month. Or 1 hour for crying out loud. The craze of our culture and the trends of our day inhale our attention, affections, focus, and time for hours upon hours. Those hours turn into days. The days to into years. And those years will eventually amass to a lifetimes of wasted energy, effort and emotion invested into vapor. Nothingness. Vanity. A chasing after wind.
If He sent forth His Word to create the galaxies, (and He did…) then His Word will surely recreate the broken perspective inside of us. (See Psalm 107:20) Not only is our relationship with Him made right positionally, but His powerful Word inside of us will take root in the deepest crevices of our souls, restoring what was stolen and reestablishing a correct and righteous perspective on “self.” The more we allow His word to rebuild the rubble inside of us, the more we will be restored to the children of God we were destined to be before sin entered. (s/o to sanctification again).
(Three important things I need to mention: Firstly, yes, we are daily [and for our lifetime] taking out the trash that reeks from our old self - but we are no longer defined by these sins and struggles, or confined to them. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Do not believe what is spoken to you or about you if it is not in God's thought life. (Romans 6:11)
Secondly, I believe God's heart melts when we come to Him desperately and vulnerably like a child needing Him... like a parched deer panting for Him. We will spend our existence relying on Him, aching for Him and humbling ourselves before Him. Yet there is a difference in mindset between desperation and victimized pity, just like there is a difference in confidence and pride.
Thirdly, when we begin to think and live like confident [yet meek] princes and princesses/children of God... suffering is sure to come - but like Stephen - our gaze is fixed upwards because we are sure of Him and sure of who He says we are in Him. We are joy filled and expectant within the pain and struggle - like our Lord Jesus Christ was).
His heart has always been to have us close. We make Him happy! When we choose to believe this, the world will stop stereotyping the Church as a bunch of hypocritical, judgmental bigots. Instead of believing Christ's Body to be a congregation of behaviorally modified human beings without passion, the world will see a people who realize to Whom they belong and they will take note that we have been with Him because of our joy and childlike faith. Some may even ask us for directions on where to find Him. :)